F&M Stories

The Best Winter Break Books

What do Franklin & Marshall faculty members and staff read to unwind? As students close out the semester, we’ve rounded up recommendations for the top winter break reads. From crime fiction to comedy, there’s a title to pique the interest of every bookworm. 

Ask For More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything, by Alexandra Carter
Annalisa Crannell, Carmie L. and Beatrice J. Creitz Professor of Mathematics
Ask For More: 10 Questions to Negotiate Anything, by Alexandra Carter  

256 pages; published May 2020 by Simon & Schuster

From the publisher: Negotiation is not a zero-sum game. It’s an essential skill for your career that can also improve your closest relationships and your everyday life. Still, people often shy away from it, feeling defeated before they’ve even started. In this groundbreaking new book on negotiation, Alexandra Carter – Columbia law professor and mediation expert who has helped students, business professionals, the United Nations, and more – offers a straightforward accessible approach anyone can use to ask for and receive more.

Annalisa says: “This book was recommended in one of the podcasts that my Wednesday walking group listened to, so we ordered it for the library. It's really mostly about how to have good, informative conversations, or even about how to negotiate with yourself. A quick, fun, informative read!”

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Peter Durantine, Director of Media Relations
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

560 pages; published April 2017 by Scribner

From the publisher: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award finalist, the beloved instant New York Times bestseller and New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Peter says: “This is a beautifully written book about a young, blind girl in Saint-Malo, France, in 1944 who connects to the world through the radio, and a young German soldier, stationed in her town, who picks up her nightly broadcasts. She harbors a secret she does not know she possesses and until a German officer comes searching for it.”

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby
Louise LoBello, Digital & Special Collections Librarian
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, by Samantha Irby

288 pages; published May 2017 by Vintage

From the publisher: Whether Samantha Irby is talking about how her difficult childhood has led to a problem in making “adult” budgets; explaining why she should be the new Bachelorette; detailing a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes; sharing awkward sexual encounters; or dispensing advice on how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms (hang in there for the Costco loot!); she’s as deft at poking fun at the ghosts of her past self as she is at capturing powerful emotional truths.

Louise says: “It was absolutely hilarious. Sam Irby relatably and hysterically recounts absurd stories from her life in this collection of essays. She has found a way to laugh at all the struggles life can throw at us sometimes.”

Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin
Chris Karlesky, Alumni Magazine Editor
Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin

272 pages; published Jan. 1987 by The Bodley Head

From the publisher: Detective John Rebus’s city is being terrorized by a baffling series of murders… and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. As the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer―he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle…

Chris says: “Do you enjoy crime fiction? Then you might know about Ian Rankin’s brilliant series of Inspector Rebus novels, set in the mystical city of Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s perfect reading for a cold winter’s day – but don’t be surprised if you get hooked and end up reading all 24 of Rankin’s novels.”

Circe, by Madeline Miller

Amy Faust, Learning Support Specialist
Circe, by Madeline Miller 

393 pages; published April 2018 by Little, Brown and Company

Clytemnestra, by Costanza Casati

448 pages; published May 2023 by Sourcebooks Landmark

From the publisher (Circe): In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child – not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power – the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

From the publisher (Clytemnestra): For fans of Madeline Miller's “Circe,” a stunning debut following Clytemnestra, the most notorious villainess of the ancient world and the events that forged her into the legendary queen. As for queens, they are either hated or forgotten. She already knows which option suits her best…

Amy says: “These are really interesting retellings of Greek mythology from the perspective of the women themselves. If you are familiar with Homer’s ‘The Iliad’ or ‘The Odyssey’ you'll enjoy this fresh, and feminine, perspective. Both are easy reads and they pair nicely.”

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
Bill Keller, Assistant Vice President of Advancement Marketing & Communication
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King

320 pages; published June 2020 by Scribner

From the publisher: “On Writing” is both a textbook for writers and a memoir of Stephen's life and will, thus, appeal even to those who are not aspiring writers. If you've always wondered what led Steve to become a writer and how he came to be the success he is today, this will answer those questions.

Bill says: “While not a new release, ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King still holds value on a re-read. There's practical advice for aspiring writers that also helps dismantle the excuses and distractions that stop us from committing to the work. I also appreciate the vulnerability, challenges and failures shared by one of the most prolific and successful fiction writers of our time.”

Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros
Nicole Rearich, Circulation Supervisor, College Library
Fourth Wing, by Rebecca Yarros

500 pages; published May 2023 by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Red Tower Books)

Iron Flame, by Rebecca Yarros

623 pages; published Nov. 2023 by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Red Tower Books)

From the publisher (Fourth Wing): Enter the brutal and elite world of a war college for dragon riders from USA Today bestselling author Rebecca Yarros. Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail was supposed to enter the Scribe Quadrant, living a quiet life among books and history. Now, the commanding general – also known as her tough-as-talons mother – has ordered Violet to join the hundreds of candidates striving to become the elite of Navarre: dragon riders.

From the publisher (Iron Flame): Everyone expected Violet Sorrengail to die during her first year at Basgiath War College – Violet included. But Threshing was only the first impossible test meant to weed out the weak-willed, the unworthy, and the unlucky.

Nicole says: “This is an addictive series involving students surviving their first year at Basgiath War College and the bonds with their dragons. The books are currently No. 1 and No. 2 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.”

The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemison
Malinda Harnish Clatterbuck, Associate Director at the Center for the Sustainable Environment
Touchstone, by Laurie R. King
My Name is Asher Lev, by Chaim Potok
Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko
The Inheritance Trilogy, by N.K. Jemison

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

The Broken Kingdoms

The Kingdom of Gods

From the publisher (Inheritance Trilogy): After her mother's death, a young woman is summoned to the floating city of Sky to claim a royal inheritance she never knew existed in this epic fantasy trilogy from the New York Times bestselling author of “The Fifth Season.”

Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.

Malinda says: “I love reading – and I've read two novels in the past week. But to narrow it down, I suggest these.”



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